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ash trees are yummy: part 2

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Last week when I peeked out my window to check on the progress of the leaves on my twig, I noticed that several of them were curled and twisted.


It had been raining for days and the previous night's storm was pretty windy, so I thought maybe the leaves had just been blown out of place. I tried to flip one over, only to find that my fingers were covered with sticky stuff! The leaf had this thin layer of white sticky stuff that was causing it to curl.


I figured this was the work of some sort of bug, became totally grossed out and ran off to wash my hands thoroughly. Once I felt clean again, I did a little searching on the internet and determined that the buggies on my twig might have been aphids. Apparently the aphids suck plant juices (sap?) out of the leaf, which can cause the leaves to curl. While they're eating, the aphids kind of poop this white liquidy stuff called honeydew, which stays on the leaves making them sticky. This all seems very yucky (and has ruined honeydew melon for me forever), but apparently some other bugs love the honeydew. Some bees produce a special type of honey from it and some ants actually collect it directly from the aphids. Eww. Here's a gross picture of a couple of ants collecting honeydew from feeding aphids. You can see some honeydew bubbles on a few of the aphids.

picture from wikipedia

Luckily, I haven't seen any of these bugs on my tree and the curled leaves returned to normal by the next day.


But just this morning, I spotted another little patch of honeydew.



how slow can you grow

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Okay, so you know the leaves I've been watching? They've stopped growing. Oh, all the other leaves are growing, just not the two I'm measuring. What up with that?!

Here we go. Middle leaf, May 18th: 2 1/8".


Middle leaf, May 23rd: 2 1/8".


Middle leaf, May 25th: 2 1/8".



Little leaf, May 18th: 5/8".


Little leaf: May 23rd...


No, not that big one on the top, the tiny one below. Hey, why is the other leaf in the pair so big now? They started out the same!

Little leaf, May 25th: uh, 5/8".


Grrr. Well, at least the big leaf is growing...

Large leaf, May 18th: 6 1/8".


Large leaf, May 25th: 6 3/4".


Alright! That's what I'm talking about!

So apparently my other two leaves are on vaca or something. What gets me is that all the leaves come in pairs and the other leaf in each pair is growing strong. Are these on the wrong side (the house side instead of the street side)? Are they getting less sun? I refuse to be worried, though, because there is so much overall growth on my twig that I actually have trouble finding my leaves these days!


Can you believe that's the same twig that we met back in February?!


filling out

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My tree may still look sparse from across the street, but the view from inside my window is filling up with green!

Here was my view of (and through) one section of the tree back on February 15th.


Two months later, on April 25th, flowers and the very beginnings of leaves added dots of yellow-green to my view of the houses across the way.


By May 2nd, the leaves on my tree and the tree across the street had started to hide the neighbors' windows from view.


Dramatic changes came fast after that. By May 6th, the leaves were large enough to hang over the branches and cover the buds they'd popped out of.


And on the 12th, I could barely see the sidewalk anymore.


Then the green just got thicker. (May 18th)


And thicker. (May 23rd)


Bye neighbors! See you in the fall.

a springtime walk among the trees

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Back in February, I took a walk through the neighborhood to look at trees. I saw interesting bark and different types of buds and a lot of snow. This weekend, we had our first non-rainy day in about two weeks, so I popped the camera in my pocket and set off on a springtime neighborhood tree walk.

I spotted the kooky honey locusts, finally starting to green.


And discovered a group of birds flitting about in them. Apparently, they do not find the twisted, gnarled twigs as spooky looking as I do.


Speaking of birds, I spotted this in a tree by our parking space.


A nest!


I haven't seen any birds around it yet, but the car has been covered with their droppings in the last couple of weeks. I actually get kind of excited each time I come to the car and see new bird poop on it. I start searching up in the trees to see if the birds have returned to their nest!

The trees by our parking space are an interesting bunch. There's the Norway maple that I've been watching and the tree with the incredibly long roots. The root tree looks almost bare among its green neighbor trees.


But if you follow the branches up, they end in lovely orange-y leaves.


I have no idea what kind of tree it is. It seems to have compound leaves similar to my tree's, but they're so high that I can't distinguish any of the details.

Closer to the kids' school, there is another tree that has intrigued me for the last couple of weeks. I don't know what kind it is either, but it has heart-shaped leaves all along every branch.


I have to admit that I originally thought leaves would come out everywhere on a tree, but now that I've looked closer at trees, I can see that they are usually on the tips of the branches, leaving the bark bare. This tree, with its almost vine-like covering of leaves, reminds me of an extremely hirsute man with hair where it shouldn't be. Each of those leaves is directly attached to the branch with one stem. The tree seems to have no need for twigs at all!

Another tree that amazes me is this one, with enormous leaves the length and shape of my foot and huge clusters of flowers that hold themselves straight up on the twig.


The flowers have pretty little red and yellow dots in the center.


I think this might be a Horse chestnut tree. It is magnificent.

On my way back home, I was surprised by the full canopy on this ash tree just a block away from my house.


This ash is a good two or three weeks ahead of the others on the street. It looks fully developed, whereas mine definitely looks like it's still just getting started.


Now that the leaves are arriving, I can tell just how many of the branches on my tree are dead. There are whole sections, maybe a third of the tree, that remain completely bare.

I wonder if my tree will ever fill out like the ash down the street.
I wonder how the honey locusts will look when they have all their leaves.
I wonder when the horse chestnut will lose its flowers and begin to drop chestnuts all over the street.
I wonder when the birds will return to their nest and when they will leave it again.

just how many of these are in there?

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On May 3rd, I started watching a small leaf develop on the twig closest to my window. Back then, there were two pairs of leaves in the cluster (each only about 3/4" long!) and -- something I hadn't noticed before -- also a thin bundle of green in the center.


That little bundle in the center has now developed into a new pair of leaves in the cluster.


I wonder how many pairs of leaves are going to be in one cluster. How many leaves can there be in there?!

Let's start at the beginning. Twelve days ago I discovered a new leaf cluster just starting to open. On that day, there were two leaves (each about 1/4" long) and a pair of smaller microleaves. 


I think these little microleaves are the "wings" I'd noticed stretching out the buds when leaves first started to appear on my tree in April.


I don't think these have developed into leaves. Maybe they're like the strange leaves that I saw on my son's bean plant that came out first but didn't ever turn into true leaves.

bottom right: the lighter, poorly formed "leaves" that appeared first

The book A Seed is Sleepy also showed these strange first leaves on a bean plant at 4 weeks.


I think these are cotyledons, which are sort of embryonic leaves. So, these may be a kind of starter leaf for the plant.

Sure enough, twelve days later, those microleaves haven't developed at all, while the other leaves have almost tripled in length. 


But look! In the very center there is another little tiny green tongue starting to peek out! Will that be another bundle for another pair of leaves??

When I look at the largest leaf I've been watching, I can see that it is in a cluster with five pairs of leaves.


When I started watching it, it had three pairs and a small bundle in the center.


Looking really closely at the newest set of leaves, I noticed something else...


They look like little buds right at the spots where the leaf stems branch off of the main shoot.


OMG, what are they?!
This spring, I've been watching the slow awakening of deciduous trees, you know, the trees that lose their leaves in the fall and grow them back in the spring. But there are some trees that stay green all year round: conifers. Back in my second post, I mentioned that all I know about conifers I learned from They Might Be Giants. I knew that conifers didn't lose their needles in the fall, but I hadn't really thought about what happens to them in the spring. Until last week, when I walked by some bushes and noticed that they had developed bright little light green tips.


How cute is that?! It's like highlights! This must be new growth. You can even spot some little brown bud-like bits at the base of the new growth. I wonder how similar their development is to the deciduous trees I've been following?


Elsewhere in trees-that-do-not-behave-like-the-ones-I've-been-watching are the weirdest trees on my street: the honey locusts. At least I think they are honey locusts. They have been the slowest trees to start blooming around here and are just starting to get their leaves now. At the end of April, when my tree was full of pollen-covered flowers and the Norway maples were bringing bright green to the whole neighborhood, they looked like this...


The honey locusts have these uneven zigzag branches that make them look super creepy. They remind me of the spooky forest that Dora the Explorer constantly has to tiptoe through to get to the other side. In the winter, they looked almost pitch black.


Honey locusts are actually even creepier than this. Regular honey locust trees have thorns. And not like little rose thorns. These are big, menacing thorns that look like something from the age of the dinosaurs (which they very well may be!).


The variety that is planted for shade in the city is thornless, however. Earlier this month, I spotted a honey locust a few blocks away that had started developing its leaves a little earlier than the ones on my street and noticed that it too had thorns. Only on the branches though, thank goodness!


Even if they aren't growing thorns out of their trunks, the honey locusts around me are growing small twigs (like the one above) and flowers and leaves directly out of the trunk. Here's one honey locust a block away from me back at the end of April.


The little buds are coming straight out of the trunk! They seem to be coming out at spots where there are these knots. I wonder if they have created the knots by repeatedly sprouting here or if they are growing here because the bark is somehow different here. And it's not just this tree. All the honey locusts have these buds growing on the trunk. Even the youngest one.


Three weeks later, the little buds have developed into leaves and flowers.


These are the same leaves and flowers that are growing up in the branches. I just can't get over the fact that they are growing down here as well. There's something about this kind of tree, it seems, that just wants to grow wacky stuff out of everywhere.

The honey locust has long compound leaves with what looks like 15 or so leaflets and I know from my kids tree id book that it makes the crazy long seedpods (up to 18" long!) that we see all over the sidewalks around here in the fall.

It's a weird tree. For more about the honey locust, check out this post from BiologyDude.

growth charts

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When we last checked in on our leaf, on May 8th, it measured 1 1/2" long. On the 10th, it was just shy of 1 3/4".


On May 12th, it measured just over 1 3/4".


And on May 14th, almost 2".


Today, it's just over 2".


That's amazingly steady growth -- about 1/8" every two days. But it's slower growth than I noticed last week, which was about 1/8" every day. Wanna see how it's slightly slowing down?


Judging from this leaf, I might guess that a leaf's growth slows down as it gets larger, but when we take a look at the large leaf right by my window, we see something different. This big leaf was 4 1/2" long on May 9th.


And 5 1/4" on May 12th.


It grew to 5 3/4" by May 14th.


And was 6" long this morning.


Wow! Let's see that in a graph!

Again, my measuring system isn't exactly precise, but there's no doubting that the big leaf is getting bigger faster than the smaller leaf. Interestingly, both seemed to slow down in the last few days. You can see the slopes on their graphs aren't as steep from the 14th to the 16th in particular. I wonder if everything on the tree slowed down in the last few days because the weather changed to cool temps, clouds and rain. Look at this awesome graph that I found at of Boston's weather in the last week ....


Maybe not the most inspiring weather for growing leaves. Could this have caused that slowdown in leaf growth?

I wonder how a tree deals with long periods of clouds anyway. Doesn't sun mean food? But clouds mean rain, which is also important....

ash leaves are yummy

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I wonder who has been munching on my tree's leaves?


A very hungry caterpillar?


I haven't ever spotted any critters, but they must be there somewhere!


I'm assuming that this is all completely normal. I don't see why a few holes on a few leaves should cause a major problem for the tree. And these leaves don't look sick, just munched on. I'll be keeping an eye open for more signs of hungry insects in the tree and their impact on its leaves.

how do your ash leaves grow? part 3

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Last week, I noticed that my tree has compound leaves, which means that each leaf is made up of several leaflets. In fact, I said that each leaf was made up of seven leaflets because the leaves that came out first all seemed to all have 7 (as seen in this picture from May 1st).


So I thought my tree was a 7-tree, making leaves with 7 leaflets. I don't think that anymore. As I've been measuring specific leaves on my tree, I've noticed something. Let's take a look at a picture from May 3rd, when I started measuring leaves.


The leaf I'm measuring only has 5 leaflets!  The other leaves in this cluster also only have 5, except for the one at the bottom left, which has 7. Now I'm starting to notice more and more leaves with 5 leaflets.


I can't really discern a pattern. Sometimes the 5-leaflet leaves are the inner/smaller leaves on a shoot, sometimes they're the outer/larger leaves.


And they aren't always in pairs. Sometimes a cluster will have just one leaf with a different number of leaflets.


I suppose they still might all develop into leaves with 7 leaflets, but I'm beginning to doubt that all the leaves on a tree will have the exact same number of leaflets. Now I know why the tree id books and sites talk about "5 to 9" or "7 to 11" leaflets. Here's a description from a leaf tree key found on this site.


So, since my tree has leaves with 5 and 7 leaflets, does that mean that I have a white ash tree?

how do your ash leaves grow? part 2

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As we saw yesterday, the leaves on my tree are growing longer, about 1/8" per day. While I was wondering about the growth of the leaves, I was also wondering about the shoots. Are they also getting taller? I mean, the branch is supposed to get longer each year, right? So, can I figure out how much taller it's growing? Let's see...


On May 3rd, the shoot at the end of the twig closest to my living room window measured about 2" tall from the tippy top of the center leaves back down to the twig. Two days later, on May 5th...

shoots_grow5_5.jpg looked to be about 2 1/2" long, although I'm not quite sure I was holding the measuring tape at the same spot at the top. (I do my best to get the tape in place before I get the camera, but it's tricky doing all this hanging out my living room window.)

The very next day (May 6th)...

...I measured it at 2 3/4" from the top point of the leaves to the base. And two days later, on the 8th...


...3 3/4"?! Hmmmm, that seems like a lot. Suddenly, I'm wondering if I'm measuring the growth of the shoot or the growth of those leaves at the top. I may have to approach this question a little differently....

If I look back at the pictures above and focus only on the section of the measuring tape that is between the spot where the highest leaves branch off from the shoot and the top of the twig, I think I can actually discern some growth in the shoot itself.


In the picture from May 3rd (above), I count four 1/4" segments, so 1" total height. In the picture from May 6th (below), I can see five 1/4" segments, so 1 1/4" total height.


That's 1/4" difference in three days. And two days later, I count six 1/4" segments, which means another 1/4" of growth!


If this is in fact the growth of the shoot, it would mean that it is getting taller about about the same rate (1/8" per day), or perhaps a little more slowly, than the leaves are getting longer.

I will keep measuring this shoot to try to verify this estimate. But I wonder how long the shoot will continue to grow? I assume that the leaves will reach their full length at some point in the summer, but could the shoot keep growing beyond that? When does all this growth stop and the tree start to shift to fall?

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the leaves category.

honey locust is the previous category.

maple is the next category.

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